The signs of winter’s approach are many. Fallen leaves. Flocks of birds flying south. Frost on your car windshield. Holiday decorations in the stores.
In our region, one sure sign that winter is coming can be found wherever you find an oak tree. Squirrels – by the hundreds – are darting about, gathering acorns with single-minded focus and working furiously to store them away in preparation for a long winter season. Judging by the number of squirrels I’ve seen this year and the intensity of their work, they seem to know that this coming winter will be a tough one.
With a similar sense of urgency and focus, Square One is getting ready for winter by anticipating the challenges that cold weather presents to children and families in need. We learned long ago that getting through winter is a result of advanced preparation, so like our friends the squirrels, we’re “plan ahead” types at Square One.
We know that all winter long kids need a warm and welcoming environment where they are cared for and educated and loved. A place where they are fed wholesome food and taught ways to make smart, healthy choices. A place where they can be comfortable being who they are and not pressured by bullies or gang activity. A place where they can be safe and secure while their parents are at work, trying to make a better life for their families.
Creating that warm and welcoming environment is at the core of Square One’s mission, but winter brings on additional challenges. For example, we know that many of the children in our care will need a warm coat, mittens and a hat this winter, so we’ve already been working with our community partners to help ensure that every child who needs these winter staples gets them. But what happens when a child goes home and the heat is off? Many young families served by Square One will need fuel assistance to heat their home this winter. Some will need help with a landlord who hasn’t seen to it that the oil tank is filled regularly. Others may need additional resources so they are not left with the decision "do I eat or do I heat?"
Square One works to be there for children and families at many levels. With winter coming, we’re busy as squirrels with seasonal preparations that complement our year-round culture of emotional support. These preparations and this support will make a huge difference in the lives of the children we serve as winter slowly begins to tighten its icy grip on greater Springfield.